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Finally healthy, Stars' Mattias Janmark looking to make up for lost time

After missing all of last season with a rare knee injury, the young forward is ready to return

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

There were questions about Stars forward Mattias Janmark coming into this year's training camp and preseason. How would his surgically repaired knee hold up to the rigors of camp and games? And how would he look after missing an entire season?

The answers to the questions were encouraging.

"He's been outstanding. He's been one of our best players in camp," said GM Jim Nill. "He's feeling very well. He's had no issues."

Janmark missed all last season after undergoing surgery to correct a congenital issue in his knee called osteochondritis dissecans, a joint issue in which a segment of bone can break loose due to a lack of blood supply.

Doctors reattached a displaced bone in Janmark's left knee with screws one year ago, and then removed the screws this past spring. Janmark spent the summer working to get ready for camp and the preseason, which would be a big test since osteochondritis dissecans is uncharted territory for a pro hockey player.

Video: A new era begins in Dallas

"No [issues]," Janmark said. "I feel better in my right knee, but I have no limitations on the ice. I feel great. It's been positive so far, so I am not too worried about it."

Janmark looked like he hadn't missed any time at all in camp and the preseason. He played in three games, tallying three points (two goals, one assist) while averaging 18:03 of ice time.

"Pretty good. It's been fun and I think I've gotten up to speed," Janmark said. "Now it's all about trying to maintain and improve from here. You are going to hit rough patches but hopefully I can keep my head up and work through it."

It wasn't just Janmark's play that stood out the past two weeks.

"You sit and watch these games and you can understand now the hole it created when we lost him," Nill said.

New coach Ken Hitchcock also can see why the Stars missed Janmark last season.

"He's zero maintenance. You don't have to worry about if he is ready to play," Hitchcock said. "He is a guy you can see how much was missed last year because whoever he plays with he makes better. He makes the line better, he makes the players engage competitively. That's just an all-around, zero-maintenance player."

Janmark was one of several injuries for the Stars last season, and they lost his speed, versatility, offensive ability and defensive awareness. Those all were things he showed in his rookie season in 2015-16 when he recorded 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) and a plus-12 rating in 73 games.

"He's fast, he's hard on pucks and he's got great hockey sense," said center Jason Spezza. "He plays a lot of big minutes for us, he drives possession and he hangs onto pucks."

Spezza and Janmark played often on a line together in 2015-16 and developed good chemistry. They've been reunited since early in this year's camp with Brett Ritchie as the third member of the line. It hasn't taken long for Janmark and Spezza to strike up the chemistry again.

Video: Janmark scores in preseason opener

"I feel we haven't lost a step that way," said Spezza. "When you have good chemistry it comes back pretty instantly. Even the first day we skated pre-camp you could tell we had played together and liked playing together."

"It feels natural," Janmark added. "Chemistry is not going to be there if you are not playing good, but I think it is going to be there. You just have to work for it and it will show up."

And the 24-year-old Janmark has worked hard to get back to where he is now -- playing hockey again after missing an entire season due to the knee issue. There could be challenges moving forward, but the past couple of weeks -- with the ramped up competition of training camp and preseason games -- was a big test for Janmark.

"[The knee] feels good. I didn't really have questions about that because I felt good the late part of the summer," Janmark said. "But, of course, when you step it up a level like we do now, it was a good answer."

An answer both Janmark and the Stars were hoping to get.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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